Thousands visit Notre Dame for national baton twirling competition

NOW: Thousands visit Notre Dame for national baton twirling competition

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The seats at Purcell Pavilion are used to seeing some of the best competition around on the basketball court.

This week it’s been transformed to host some of America’s greatest in another competition – baton twirling.

America’s Youth on Parade makes its annual appearance at Notre Dame, marking nearly 50 years of the country’s best twirlers coming to its biggest stage.

With about 2,500 twirlers taking part in more than 40 different competitions under the same roof, it’s become the premier destination for this blend of sports and performing arts.

And it all happened here thanks to one man reading a magazine article.

“I had held this event at University of Mississippi three years and then Syracuse one year,” said founder Don Sartell, who is still the organizer for AYOP. “Then I read in Billboard Magazine that they were building this 10-acre building at Notre Dame. I mustered up enough courage to come here and try to convince them that an all-male college should entertain an all-girls event. And it worked.”

Notre Dame became co-ed a few years later, and of course the twirling competition is no longer all-girl.

There is also a high level of competition, with some participants even advancing to the world championships in Norway.

This year’s field includes some who have won national and world championships, which is why they say it’s one of the premier events every year.

“We are focused, but it’s not the stereotypical competition mind frame you’d think we’d be in where everyone’s so focused on themselves,” said Cody Carter, a world champion from Phoenix who has competed on multiple continents and appeared on America’s Got Talent. “It’s really a friendly and great atmosphere. So to come see the culture and everything else, it’s really cool.”

The event runs through the rest of the week, highlighted in part by Friday’s national collegiate competition with more than 100 universities taking part.

Saturday marks the end, capping the event with a show featuring the numerous winners throughout the week. They’ll perform together in a show at 3 p.m. that will be free to the public.

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